Major concerns/neighborhood issues: Gang wars and racial tension are nothing new in Grays Ferry, but former resident Charles Monroe remembers a time when youths of all stripes could put aside their differences on the neighborhood basketball courts. In the old Anthony Wayne schoolyard at 27th and Tasker, "we would get a diverse group of young kids playing [pick-up games] together without any racial friction," Monroe says.
Grays residents have appealed to government and civic organizations about the need for more centers and activities for the neighborhood's children. Prior to this year, for instance, the community lacked a place where kids could play organized baseball. Last spring, some 60 local youths went from not owning a mitt to playing in a Phillies Rookie League, a community program supported by Major League Baseball.
A formerly rich parish community also has dwindled from three schools and churches to one. Declining enrollments forced King of Peace, St. Aloysius and St. Gabriel to merge at the start of the new century. The resulting school, Our Lady of Angels, 2917 Dickinson St., has become a magnet for Catholics even beyond the neighborhood. St. Gabriel's Church is the only remaining Catholic house of worship in Grays Ferry, which formerly had a large Irish and Italian Catholic population.
The future: The first phase of the Greater Grays Ferry Estates, an affordable 554-home development, opened in July. The $165-million complex sits on a 40-acre site previously occupied by the Tasker Homes project. The first 225 homes are finished and many already are occupied, with the remainder expected to be completed by the end of next year. The new houses come complete with driveways, porches, backyards and household appliances, and are expected to draw a diverse population.
The physical rebuilding of Audenried High also is expected to raise morale, among both the student body and the neighborhood at large.
--by Bill Gelman
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